How To Pronounce Names: Google Translate and Name Pronunciation Tools
Check out these 3 free online tools that help with how to pronounce names.
Recently, I heard from a Genealogy Gems listener in The Netherlands, who shared research tips for those starting to trace Dutch ancestors. I wanted to mention his email on my free Genealogy Gems podcast, but I didn’t know how to pronounce his name, Niek.
There have been other times I wished I knew how to pronounce names of ancestors or distant cousins, or other foreign words.
I received more than one email regarding the way I mispronounced Regina, Saskatchewan on my Genealogy Gems podcast. I pronounced it with a long “e” sound (like Rageena) when in reality it is pronounced with a long “i” sound (as in Reg-eye-na). I appreciated the correction. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could check how to say something before you say it?
Here are 3 free online tools that can help. They’re each a little different. I’m giving you all three so you can run the name through more than one site to be even more confident you’re getting the right pronunciation.
Google Translate is a powerful, free tool I use for quick translation look-ups. Google Translate now has an audio tool for some languages that will pronounce the words you enter. Look for the speaker icon in the bottom left corner of the translate box and click it:
Google Translate is an awesome free tool for other reasons, too.
As we research our family history it often leads us to records and reference books in foreign languages. The Google Translate app on your phone comes in very handy in such times.
You can translate short bit of text in real time. Here’s an example of a page from a German reference book:
In order to translate this page, I tapped the Camera icon in the app and then held my camera over the page. The image is sent via an internet connection to Google. Text recognition occurs and the text is translated. Here’s what the real-time translation looks like in the Google Translate app:
The translation may not be perfect, but it is much better than not being able to read the page at all.
You can also use the Scan feature to take a photograph of a page or document. This can often give you a better translation because the image is more stable. To do this, tap Scan in the bottom menu. Hold your phone over the page, and then tap the circle button. This is what the initial scan looks like:
Tap the Select All button if you want all the text to be translated. The other option is that you can swipe your finger over just the words that you want translated. As you can see in the image, each word has been individually found by Google providing you with precise selection control You can also tap the Clear button if you want to start over and take the image again. In the image below I have selected a portion of the text on the screen:
The translation is almost instantaneous, and it appears in the blue line at the top. Tap the right arrow on the blue line to see the full translation:
The Google Translate app is continually being improved, and is worth a try if you haven’t used it recently. The most recent updates included better translation quality and support for more languages.
If you would like to learn more about how to use Google Translate, check out chapter 13 in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.
Click here to read about one of its qualities that actually got a gasp out of the audience when I mentioned it in a lecture.
2. Forvo describes itself as “the largest pronunciation guide in the world, the place where you´ll find millions of words pronounced in their original languages.” It’s like a pronunciation wiki.
A quick search for “Niek” gave me the result shown here. I clicked on “Pronunciation by MissAppeltaart” to hear how that contributor (who is from The Netherlands) said that name.
By the way, you can contribute your own pronunciations by clicking on “Pronounce” to see a list of words that are waiting to be recorded.
3. Pronounce Names is a website that gives you visual cues for pronouncing a name. This can be helpful for those who aren’t sure they heard an audio pronunciation correctly. This is what it looks like when you ask for a name pronunciation for Niek:
Being a visual learner myself, I particularly appreciate this site! I think I would have remembered the correct pronunciation of Regina had I seen it in a format like this.
Now if I could just get the telephone solicitors to use the tools. Maybe then they will stop calling and asking “is Mrs. Cookie there?”
More Free Online Tools–These are Gems!
I’m always on the look up for free online tools that solve problems. Whether you are trying to find genealogy records, solve geographical questions, or you want to identify a face in a photographs, there are tools out there that just may do the trick. Here are three more articles that provides answers to challenges like these.
- Try These 2 Powerful Online Tools for Finding Genealogy Records
- New Online Property Map Tools for U.S. Genealogy Research
- Compare Look-Alikes in Your Family with This Facial Recognition Web App